We speed north at 186 mph by Shinkansen, the famous bullet train, still a stunning engineering achievement and the best and easiest way to travel in Japan. In spring, snow still covers the hills and mountains, contrasting with the pink blossom of sakura, or cherry blossom.
The train bypasses the crippled Fukushima plant. We don’t have time to investigate the nuclear disaster on this trip. Its ramifications continue to unfold, as tons of contaminated water seep out into the Pacific Ocean. The power company Tepco and Japan’s nuclear regulators have been slated, accused of cover-ups and bungling. Elite firefighting teams were hailed as heroes. As bad as it was, it is clear that the disaster could have been worse. Japan is still committed to nuclear power; however, more people are now for the first time questioning the country’s near-total dependence on this source of energy.
We arrive in Sendai, to all appearances a normal city. In 2010 the tsunami reached the airport and water lapped around airplanes on the runway.
We do not have to go far to see the damage. Our driver, Sato, takes us to the beach at Arahama. It is almost deserted. The Pacific looks as deceptively calm as its name. The tsunami stopped just before his house, says Sato.